RESEARCH IS A WONDERFUL THING
The name, ‘Fyshwick’, intrigues me and submitting it as a prompt topic for my writing group was, I confess, a piece of whimsy on my part. I thought it would be great as part of a title for a short story. Having read some Graham Greene recently, I decided ‘Our Man in Fyshwick’ had a certain ring to it.
I sat down with a coffee and googled ‘Fyshwick’ expecting to ramble through any number of bonny references to The Auld Country. To my dismay, there were no references to the British Isles whatsoever. There were no quaint villages so named, no colourful fish markets carrying its moniker and no character, male or female, rejoicing in its eccentricity. Fyshwick is entirely about a commercial suburb of Canberra notorious for the highest percentage of burglaries in the ACT and the only place in the Territory where prostitution may be conducted legally. I felt like a balloon five days after a kid’s birthday party.
The name is a contrivance; a combination of ‘Fysh’, after Sir Philip Fysh, a Tasmanian politician who contributed to the establishment of Australian Federation, and ‘wick’, an Old English term for a dwelling place or village. I had no idea how I was going to make a story out of that, but a story I had to have. I had chosen the topic; I was determined to make it work.
So I rambled some more with Google and found myself reading about the history of Fyshwick. The land was originally cleared and developed as the site of Molonglo Internment Camp, built in 1918 to accommodate German and Austrian nationals who had been expelled from China. Due to diplomatic intervention, these internees never arrived in Molonglo but were deported to Germany. Several German families living in Australia were finally interned at the facility, but numbering only a couple of hundred, they rattled around in premises built for three and a half thousand souls.
From 1942 to 1946 Molonglo was used as a naval auxiliary wireless station. Managed by fourteen WRANs, it operated receivers for strategic radio links between Australia and Whitehall. Petty Officer Marion Stevens, who was in charge for all but the first year of operation, was famed for being the only woman appointed to run a transmitting station during the War. I couldn’t hope to do this material justice in a short story, but I found myself day dreaming about a TV mini series built around it.
In the meantime, I still have to come up with a story about someone’s man in Fyshwick. At the moment I’m playing with some ideas based on its reputation as the burglary capital of the ACT.
I have just three weeks to get my act together.